Saturday, 29 December 2012

The American experience

The american experience of the bicycle.  3 eclectic views from america on bikes, transport and good design

A view from Portland

Gerorina Terry designs and builds bikes for Woman and is completely self taught

This guy is surprisingly good and his message gets better and more comprehensive and inspiring as it continues.

Why we shouldn't bike with helmets

This talk add to the helmet debate.  I must declare that I only ware a helmet when riding in icy conditions or may be in a city.  The arguments presented here are compelling

Why bicycles do not fall down

I came across this TEDx talk about the stability of bicycles and its brilliant.
This could have a profound affect on the development of the bicycle

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Two MBs on a cold day

I decided to build up a single speed Cannondale and a geared Marin.  The Marin is a standard 3x7 however we did not have any suitable MB forks so I put a 700c pair in which works rather well.

The Cannondale frame has been around as long as spindles.  The frame is fantastic as are all Cannondale frames of this vintage.  However if is was to be geared then a considerable amount of money would be needed to justify the frame.  Hence the single speed idea and it works.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Bike Jumble at Spindles

We have loads of second hand bike stuff and we need thin down our stock so come along and rummage.  Here are a few images of boxes.   We are open every Saturday 9:30 to 2pm ish.

Handlebars and chainsets

More chainsets

Hubs and brake levers

chains and brakes


More Forks

We have lots new parts as well.

Who made this frame?

This Argos Bike was rescued from being thrown into the skip and being lost.  But is it an Argos?  I sent the pictures who confirmed that it was not one of theirs but the did refurbish it in the 1980s.  The wrap around seat stay is the biggest clue and at least two frame builders provided this design: Holdsworth and Brian Rourke.    Here are some detailed pictures of the bike documenting in the state we received it in:  Any ideas?

Beautiful original state

Nice detail - wrap around seat stays

The forks provide a good clearance

Cinelli bars and stem

Campagnolo Pedals 

The economics of second hand bikes

Spindles has been around for 3 years now and in that time we have learned to be choosy with bikes that have been donated.  Not all bikes can be saved or are worth saving.  The cheaper end can just be recycled with only the occasional saddle or brake lever to rescue.  It's clear that people want and expect our bikes to work as well as new bike should.  This means replacing much of the gearing with new which is expensive.
I cannot believe how the price of bikes has risen over the past few years.  A Thorn Club Tour cost £800 7 years ago but now cost £1500.  My Mercian now costs £1000 for the fame only.  So what should we be charging for a basic bike, what ever that is, if the expectation is that it should work as well as a new bike?

The cheapest bikes we sell are currently £40 but this may be too little if the requirement is for it to work as well as a new bike.    Lets analyse a couple of typical donations:

1 racing bike, good frame, components a little worn, chain rusty, rims worn.. it has been a well used bike then neglected.  Strip down to the frame,  clean the frame and build up with new wheels and salvaged good parts.  New wheels cost at least £70, while the salvaged parts value may also be over £70.  With the work involved being 7 to 10 hours, including sourcing and trying the components out, we end up with a bike that cost £250+ which may be a marginal proposition for a customer.  The frame really has to justify the investment in time and money to make a desirable bike.

1 entry level mountain bike, not used much but has been left out in the rain. There is a lot of rust and the bearings grind.  Re-greasing all the bearings, fitting new cables, cleaning and tuning takes about 5 hours.  New components would be cables and chain and may be new tyres which all cost £30.  The best that a customer would expect to pay would be about £50.  The internet option for a new bike is about £70  and Halfords is about £80.

The economics of second hand bikes are marginal so any bike that we work on should be reasonably desirable.  It's very hard to turn away donations so we are beginning to favour striping donated basic bikes for specific parts and recycling the rest including the frame.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

New and old bikes

The F. W. Evans came in a couple of weeks ago and has been cleaned up and configured for winter training.   The Sunrace STI shifters are surprisingly good, Sunrace are very good at mashing up the best  technology and presenting the product at a reasonable price.  The rapidfire shifters are very good.  Not has much experience of these STIs but there is no reason why they should not prove to be reliable.

We have some really nice Novotech wheel-sets which I am tempted to use on this bike and then use these wheels on the yellow Coppi frame.

The Raleigh Lenton ladies 3 speed is still there with a brooks saddle and classic look.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Bob Jackson Renovation

The Bob Jackson project was started some time ago when the frame was rescued from a skip and given to us, see original pictures.  The late 70's Early 80's Nuovo Olympus with Prugnat Professional lugs and Campagnolo dropouts was deserving of referential treatment while remaining practical.  So it was off to Argos Racing Cycles in Bristol who did a fantastic paint job using Monaco Blue with Perl White combination with French bands on the seat tube.

We have been keen on hub gears as a practical option for some time as it gives a clean fixie look while providing a range of gears.  A 5 speed Sturmey Archer hub was selected as a trade off between weight and gear range.  We built the wheels using Rigida Chinra 700C rims and Stainless Steel spokes.  The front hub is a Campagnolo Record large flange which is probably they type of hub that this frame was equipped with when it was built by Bob Jackson

The Chainset is an FSA Gimondi with 48T chainring.  This is coupled with a 21T sprocket on the rear hub to provide a low gear and also allow the hub to fit neatly inside the dropouts.
The Bottom bracket is Campagnolo Chorus while the headset is provided by BBB.
The RX600 Brakes are coupled to Modulo brake levers mounted on Lauterwasser handlebars.
The Cinelli stem needed to be shimmed as it was a pre 1994 model.  
The Brooks Champion Special B17 is a must and is mounted on an SR fluted pin.
The result is a 25" bike that is just over 10kg. It's a smooth gliding ride which is responsive on the hills

You will find more images at

Monday, 13 August 2012

Castle Combe Cycling Festival

We will be at the Castle Combe Cycling Festival, see on Sunday the 26th August.  We will have a stall which will display our latest bikes and have all our tools with us.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Inspiring Bike project from US

Can across this film abot a bike project in Arizona. There are some elements we could translate into Corsham Spindles

Saturday, 14 April 2012

New Bikes for Spring

We have have some new bikes in over the last week which can be viewed here.  These include a Cannondale M500 MB from the early 1990s.  The quality of the frame is always outstanding on Cannondales with the trade mark smooth welds.  The paint work is in reasonable condition.  Its turned into a very light bike at 11kg.  Would be suitable for tall (6foot+) gentleman.

The Giant Expression came in as a donation from the skip.  It was minus the cranks which are filled with some Mighty cranks that we had lying about.  The Nexus 3 speed and hub brakes make this a low maintenance commuting bike complete with mudguards.  

Other new bikes include several Ladies Raleigh bikes. 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Ken's folding Bike

Ken showed us his folding bike that he constructed from Columbus tubing some years ago. He made 4 all together with different features (gears, drop bars etc). This is the lightest at 15lbs and is quick 'n' nippy. Fold is useful for train and car journeys. Is it better than a brompton? its certainy lighter although the fold is not as neat.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Taylor Made

The Taylor brothers today: (left to right) Jack the finishing expert.
Ken the wheel builder and Norman the frame builder.
 THE telephone directory lists "Taylor, • Jack, Mfrs." of Church Road, Stockton; yellow pages don't list him at all. When I paid my first visit to Jack Taylor's shop and works, I found him just as elusive as the cryptic entry suggests.
I approached Stockton town centre along Church Road, and reached the High Street without seeing a bicycle shop. Retracing my route, I tried again — again in vain. Perhaps I had the address wrong? No, a telephone kiosk with directory unharmed confirrned the addess. How much longer I would have continued hunting remains a mystery, for a passing policeman gave me the necessary directions. Parallel to, and slightly above, Church Road, runs a service road leading to a small industrial estate. "Look for the green shed." said my guide. I looked for the green shed, which was a large brick building, found it, parked and went inside.
A middle-aged man was contemplating a piece of burnt toast which he brandished in front of a small electric fire. A few photographs and bits of equipment suggested that I had at least found somebody who was interested in cycling, but there was no sign of any shop. I introduced myself to the charcoal-burner who admitted to being Jack Taylor himself, and gave him a short list of items I wanted to buy, wondering whether he would conjure them out of thin air. "Just a minute," came the reply, and Mr. Taylor vanished. Two minutes later he was back, carrying every item on the list. "Are you the man who wrote that book on continental cycling? he asked. I admitted that I was indeed. And then he began to talk.
Even within the trade, the name of Jack Taylor is less well-known than it deserves to be, except amongst those who have been around for some time. To the average cyclist, the name of Jack Taylor probably suggests a World Cup referee who had a television programme last year. Yet I can remember admiring Jack Taylor bicycles over twenty years ago, and writing for price-lists, (but doing no more than that).
Nobody else came into the shed while I was there, except that one of Jack's brothers popped in with a question about a bike he was assembling. To a person accustomed to the brisk retail trade and social centre provided by the large lightweight shops in Leeds, this was, again, a little surprising. But Jack laylor and his brothers have always been content to let their bicycles do the talking. Not that Jack himself is taciturn: once started, he can talk for hours, and not just about cycling, as I subsequently discovered on a visit to the Taylor home, a handsome bungalow on the edge of Stockton which Jack built himself seventeen years ago.
It is more than forty years since Jack Taylor's interest in cycling began, with pennies donated by a grandfather jealously hoarded in a money-box until there was enough to finance the purchase of a Raleigh sports model. Equipped with his first bicycle, Jack Taylor joined Stockton Wheelers, and began to enter their time trials.
There was no immediate success. "Percy Howes used to win all the races. When I got the results-sheet, I used to start at the bottom to look for my name. I found it more quickly than if I had started at the top," he modestly claims. But time trials were only part of his interest in cycling. More time was spent on club runs through the hilly Yorkshire Dales, where the roles were reversed. "We might reach Buttertubs Pass after doing about fifty miles, and the fast men used to turn round and find an easy route home." Not Jack Taylor, for he could beat most of the testers up the hills, except perhaps Harry Topham, who idolised Gino Bartali, and whose bike, accessories and riding position were all copies of the Italian. Twenty years later, when Jack Taylor was on holiday in Como, he went to visit the church where Bartali's bike was kept as a memorial, so that he could photograph it and take the photo back to Harry Topham.
The big problem in those early days was a lack of specialist equipment, made worse by the few clubmen who could boast Claud Butlers. Jack Taylor had plenty of ideas, but no money, and this is where the bike-building really started. One of the great problems was the regular snapping of spokes.
"Good spokes were hardened at the point where they fitted the hub. The British hubs were countersunk on both sides, and, every time you hit a pothole, it was like a chiselling effect on the spoke.

First stage winner of the Brighton to London was Ernie Clements (now the Managing Director of Falcon Cycles) who receives part of the spoils of victory with a kiss from Jean Kent outside the Mansion House.

That's why so many snapped. A pal of mine got me some hubs from France, so started building my own wheels in a shed at the bottom of the garden. I used 14 gauge spokes, soft ones and not double-butted, in high pressure wheels.  With these alloy hubs, they were cushioned against the shock. Modern hubs are the same now: Campag. hubs have an alloy flange that the spoke rests in."
Fashions have come and gone since: chrome spokes, stainless spokes, none of them any good according to the expert because, as soon as you harden a spoke, you make it brittle and it snaps when you hit a bump. Tandem riders sometimes specify wheels with 48 spokes. At the other extreme you have riders like Jacques Anquetil riding on wheels with only 24 spokes. How can a dealer cope with these extremes? Fortunately, no doubt, the British cycle industry solved the problem when, within a year, it had switched entirely to 36-spoke wheels, front and rear, which means that the same rim can be used for back or front wheels, the same spokes fit both wheels, less money is tied up in stock and the retailer can give a faster and wider service to his customers.
It was in the war years that the Taylor brothers— for by then Ken and Norman were keen cyclists also — began to establish themselves, particularly when Percy Stailard established the B.L.R.C. in an attempt to bring continental racing to British roads, thus incurring the wrath of the N.C.U., which controlled cycle racing in Britain. All three brothers joined the league, and were promptly kicked out of Stockton Wheelers, being re-admitted to the club only recently, to their great amusement.
Talking to Jack Taylor about the early league days is a real trip down memory lane. Out come the press cuttings and thousands of photographs, the names trip off the tongue lightly, and a superb musical background is provided in the form of New Orleans jazzmen, Jack Taylor's second great interest, helped considerably by an American colleague who manages to find him ancient classics which have long been deleted from British record lists.
Geoff Clarke, Ernie Clements, Ron Kitching, Percy Stailard: these are some of the names of the Taylor contemporaries. And one race, above all others, stands out in Jack Taylor's memory: Brighton to Glasgow—surely the greatest achievement of those early leaguers, and the forerunner not only of the Milk Race as we know it today, but of all British road-racing. The Taylor brothers rode Brighton to Glasgow five times. At their very first
attempt, they were the leading English team, despite the presence of some of the stars mentioned above. "We couldn't touch the French lads of course," comes the ready acknowledgement, "but we all finished in the first twenty. A hundred riders started and only twenty-seven finished, so we didn't do too badly. Most of the British roadmen trained very hard for single-day events, but we were tourists and clubmen at heart. The longer the race went on, the better it suited us. We didn't take it as seriously as some of them, and this seemed to help us."
The 1945 race enjoyed publicity which would turn a modern promoter green. In the austere days of the immediate postwar period, all sport flourished. Photographs show Brighton beach almost deserted, with thousands of holiday-makers assembled around the start of the race, which, being billed as the "victory cycling marathon", attracted colossal press publicity, much to the chagrin of the N.C.U., whose activities tended to remain anonymous.
The bikes were nothing special, even then, and they were usually scruffy. "We had to keep them in back yards when we were on a race," we being the English riders, "but the French lads used to smuggle them under their beds and polish them so that they were always immaculate. They knew a lot more about their equipment than most of the British lads did, so they could handle early derailleur gears while we were still learning." The Taylor brothers favoured Osgears, to the amusement of riders like Geoff Clarke who used the early Simplex equipment, but the last laugh is the one that counts, and the end of the race invariably saw the Osgeared riders ahead of the more ambitious ones, who couldn't handle their fragile equipment. Percy Stailard was another rider who invariably had the best, because the Wolverhampton lads were used to racing on Brooklands and Donington Park. They even had proper racing jerseys, while the Stockton trio managed, at first, by using dyed vests with pockets sewn on, until Ron Kitching imported a set of French jerseys for them, with the name embroidered on the front, a fact which forced the brothers to ride as independents.
One of the highlights of the race was the passage through London. One year Jean Kent, then one of Britain's leading film stars, met all the riders at the Mansion House. "All the French riders threw their bikes down and kissed her!" The English were, of course, far less effusive in their greetings. Eventually the publicity was reduced, as road-racing became relatively commonplace, and journalists began to complain that one bike was very similar to any other bike race. Nowadays it takes a yellow jersey, a dope scandal or a death before the national press is generally interested in cycling.
Brighton-Glasgow led to a Tour of Britain for Ken Taylor, but Norman and Jack were busy as full-time bike-builders, in the famous "green shed," originally leased from Stockton Corporation in 1942, now their own property and considerably extended. The friendships built up in those early league days were not forgotten, however. Other names became important, such as that of Ron Filsell, another early leaguer who was now prevailed upon to do the line-drawings for the Taylor catalogues. This was a field which later attracted other cyclists, such as Brian Walker, once a euphonium player with Acker Bilk, who now makes a comfortable living as a designer of catalogues in the United States.
While the early stages of the races paved the way for the Milk Race as we know it today, other races were becoming established as one-day classics: Wolverhampton-Llandudno, which eventually developed into the final race of the Mackeson Trophy; Dover-London in which Ken Taylor finished second; the Tour of the Peak which remains one of our finest events and the Cleveland Grand Prix, organised by Jack Taylor Cycles, flagged off by the Lord Mayor of Stockton, Alderman Ross, and finishing outside the Taylor works in Church Road. One of the officials borrowed from Brighton-Glasgow for this new promotion was Frank Guy, "the best commentator in cycling. We used to send him 30/- for his train ticket from London. When he got here, we all went to a dance on the Saturday night, and Frank used to take over the microphone to publicise the race, and get some extra prizes. On the race itself, he knew every rider by sight and by name."
When Guy was unavailable one year, Jimmy Savile agreed to step in, but the day of the race arrived with no Savile. Eventually, it transpired that he had been unable to afford the train fare to Stockton, so had accepted another offer nearer home.
To their business, the brothers brought the same quality which had distinguished their riding: meticulous attention to, and understanding of, detail. Jack freely admits that he won places against better riders. "Riding as an independent used to be like being a pro today. There weren't many of us, so we rode all the same events, and got to know each other really well. The gap in ability was enormous, but for somebody like me, it meant that I was always racing against the best riders, like Ernie Clements, and this improved my own racing." But the real reason for the relative success was the quality of the equipment used: brazed-on fittings became standard, modern gearing was adopted, correctly fitted and correctly used. The Taylor bikes worked. Riders like Wally Summers admired them and, when going to live in the United States, remembered. A local bike-builder, Colin Laing, followed Wally Summers to Colorado recently; he, too, keeps in touch with the small Stockton company.
By the mid-fifties, the brothers employed nine full-time assistants, for this was the peak of the trade in cheap lightweights, but the size of the work-force was misleading. Jack Taylor was established as a builder of top quality machines, particularly tandems and fully-equipped touring bicycles. Tom Simpson rode his first race on a Jack Taylor bicycle, and visited the Taylor stand at the 1966 cycle show, where he posed for photographers on a kiddie-sized lightweight. Sadly, those junior models are no longer made. The big companies churn out imitation racing machines for young riders at a price which though possibly prohibitive to some parents, eliminates competition from small firms.
Contracts from abroad were increasing, some of them through the influence of Raymond Fletcher of C.N.C. Cycles, met at the Paris cycle show in 1950. "He makes about 2,000 bikes a year, all identical. He thinks we're crazy just building a few a week to individual orders." But, despite Mr. Fletcher's opinion, he was another contact who aided the spread of the Taylor reputation.

A Taylor "special" built for a circus act.
One amazing customer was a circus artiste, who complained that his "high-rise" unicycle was unstable. "What happened was that it only had a chain on one side, and the pressure was so uneven that it used to distort the frame. We built him a new bike for £67, using an eccentric bottom bracket from a tandem, so that he had a double chain system on both sides of the frame, and this spread the stress more evenly."  Exports were not only to America and France, but throughout the commonwealth, and even, on one occasion, to Russia. "That got us headlines in the press. They wanted to buy some bikes, but we hadn't enough sprayed ready. We had some white ones and some red ones built, so we did some blue ones, and the press did a piece on red, white and blue bikes being exported to Russia."  But the days of cheap building died, and the work-force decreased until there were only the three brothers left. Yet, ironically, this was when the business really started to pay. "Our accountant used to tell us we were crazy. He said That's a hobby, not a business. It's time you got another job and built bikes in your spare time'. Now he invites me to sherry in the carpeted boardroom." Today there are still only the three brothers, turning out five bikes per week. They had to turn down an American order, because it was too large—2,000 bikes! Imagine how long that would take at a rate of five per week. But the order-book is full, and the orders are remunerative. "You've got to build the bikes that show the profit nowadays. A lot of Americans order touring tandems, equipped throughout with Campag. parts. £600 each, plus air freight at £30, and some of the customers actually come to Stockton to order their bikes personally."
Norman builds and welds the frames, with Ken and Jack to help with the twisting and turning, particularly of tandem frames, to get the alignment perfect. The frames are aligned by working from machine faces off the bottom bracket. Then Norman sand-blasts, files, and taps out the necessary holes. Jack himself is the expert in painting - eight or nine coatsbecause "I like everything to have a good finish." The painting tends to clog the threads, so Ken re-taps them, builds the wheels, puts in the bearings, assembles the bikes and packs them. This is a lengthy process, because they don't believe in having dissatisfied customers who, after a six-month wait, find that their bikes have been damaged during carriage. The bikes are all insured, but the packaging is still done very laboriously to minimise the risk of damage.
Eighty per cent of all orders are for the American market, with touring tandems the most popular models. Technical innovations are constantly under review, the latest being the Shimano disc brake. Ken went on a working holiday to  America last year to see the brake being assembled. The main problem is one of alignment, since the brake works by having fibre pads wich must be related to the discs perfectly to ensure even braking on both sides of the wheel. A Taylor bike with these brakes will probably be on show at the 1977 C.T.C. York Rally, even though Jack doesn't think them any better than conventional brakes.
Jack Taylor Cycles may not quite be a cottage industry, but it isn't far from it. All attempts at mass-production have been resisted, so has any pretence that good bikes are cheap. "You get what you pay for," says Jack, so if you want a touring bike made of cast iron but fitted with Campag. equipment, you can have one. The business has been established for over thirty years now and, despite fluctuations in the work-force, has changed very little. More and more of the bikes go abroad and the waiting period, briefly went down to one month in 1975, is now
back to six months. Eventually, the Taylor brothers hope that Britain will experience the same boom in hand-built, beautifully finished machines that America has been going through in recent years. If this happens, and they are reasonably optimistic about its chances, they will be ready - not to churn out identical copies by the hundred, but to continue as they always have done, namely building bicycles to the minutest individual specification, with as fine a finish as can be found anywhere in the world, and with accessories to match the pocket of the customer.
It is said that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Certainly the humble brick building in Church Road, Stockton, gives no clue to the craftsmanship carried on inside. And perhaps anybody who decides that he does want a bike "Taylor-made" to his own specification will now be able to find that famous "green shed" a little more easily.
Jack in  his  racing days crossing  Carter Bar in the 1945 Brighton to Glasgow race.
Original Article by Noel Henderson published around the mid 1970s. 

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Hub Geared Bikes

There has been a trend in recent years towards fixed geared bikes which provide an uncluttered 'clean' look as well has being light.  These are fine for flat places like London but if you live in a hilly place then fixies are more problematic.
The next bicycle renaissance will be for hub gears as Sturmey Archer provide a range of alternatives up to 8sp, there is Shimano Nexus 8sp and Alphine 11sp.  The  gold standard in Rohloff 14sp which are used by many round the world riders.  The big advantage is their durability.
The bike below is a Dawes 531st frame (possibly a Galaxy) with a Sturmey Archer 8sp hub which was built by Spindles at the end of 2011 for a local customer.  We upgraded the bar end changer to an American design to give superior performance.    Price was £350.

Our next project is a Dawes Jaguar with a Sturmey Archer 5sp, deep section rims and hub brakes.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Spindles Is moving to the Community Centre

Our tenure at the Pound Arts will finish in February 2012.  We have had a good two and a half years at the Pound and the space has provided us with the ability to develop the project as a cost effective cycle maintenance facility for Corsham.
We have now secured a space at Corsham Community Centre (see map below).  The process of moving will take a couple of weeks so we will not be operating out of the community centre until March

View Larger Map

As you may be aware the Community Centre will be demolished next year (2013) to make way for Corsham Community Campus so we will still be on the lookout for more permanent premesis

Spread the word and get in touch.

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